Tribes vs. Individuals

or, Why Democracy Doesn’t Work In Most Of The World

by Russell D. Longcore

For most of recorded human history, people have organized their lives into tribes. The most recent forms of tyrannical governance around the world seek to either subjugate or destroy tribes. But those tyrannies don’t seem to understand tribes fully, even though tribalism is sprinkled throughout their lives.

I’m writing this to explain why you should care about tribes, and how your everyday life is affected by tribalism.

For the purpose of this article, I am going to loosely define the word “democracy” as “any form of governance that allows its members to vote on outcomes that affect the members.” So under this definition, even communist governance qualifies as democracy. And communist countries have not been any more successful dealing with tribes as any other democracy.

For the purpose of this article, the word “tribe” is defined as “a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers all having a common character, occupation, or interest.”

The western democracies have the individual, the rest of the world has tribes. In democracies, individuals are sovereign. Citizens look for freedom in individuality. But in tribes, the tribe itself is sovereign. Tribesmen find freedom in the group…for the group. Tribes are not democracies, tribes are hierarchies. Tribes have a pecking order, and every member finds its place in that pecking order.

What characteristics define tribes?

• Warrior pride: Tribesmen are not soldiers, they are warriors. “Warrior” is their vocation. They fight for personal, family and tribal honor.
• Perpetual warfare: Tribes are in a constant state of war with other tribes. That is the story of the tribes of the American plains, the tribes of Africa, the tribes of the Old Testament, and the tribes of the “Stans”…Afghani-stan, Paki-stan, Uzbeki-stan, Kazakh-stan, Kyrgyz-stan, Tajiki-stan, Turkmeni-stan.
• Hostility to all outsiders: stems from the quest to perpetuate the tribe. Outsiders threaten the purity of the tribe.
• The obligation of revenge: Time means nothing to a tribe. To the Arabs, the Crusades happened yesterday.
• Suppression of women: Women are not normally allowed to be warriors, but stay within their traditional roles as wives and mothers. Tribes are patriarchic because warriors and tribal leaders are mostly men.
• A code of honor rather than a system of laws. Street gangs are little tribes, and this is the way they function…just like the Watusi and the Hutu of Africa.
• Extreme conservatism. Tribes hate change. Tribes revel in the old ways, and constantly protect the old ways from change.
• Unity with the land: Tribes know how to live off the land, not exploit it. This also means that tribes can subsist in desperate poverty while they fight the invader over time. No invader can defeat the poverty of the tribe.
• Patience: They know from centuries of experience that the invader usually wants immediate benefits, but eventually, they will tire and leave. This is the perfect soil for revenge, since no one stays on alert forever, and revenge can be exacted generations later.
• Capacity for hatred, which is distilled from the entire tribal experience.

Tribes around the world operate within these strictures to a greater or lesser degree. Tribes are the bedrock of human governance…the lowest common denominator of sorts. When some leader decides to unite the tribes under his own leadership, he attempts to build a nation. William Wallace of Scotland tried this, failing in his quest to unite the clans against England. He couldn’t get them to stop tribal squabbles long enough to throw off the tyranny of the English king.

And throughout human history, ambitious leaders have tried to defeat and domesticate tribes…many times to their own peril. Consider the Afghan tribes.

Afghan tribes killed Cyrus the Great of Persia, they defeated Alexander the Great in the 4th century, they defeated the British Empire twice in the 19th century, they defeated the Soviet Union’s Red Army in the 1980s, and are now in the process of kicking the American military’s asses.

Washington is now trying to subjugate the world’s largest tribe, the Pashtun of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pashtun numbers over 40 million people. DC will not succeed with a couple hundred thousand soldiers on the ground.

Why should you care about tribes? How is your world affected by the tribe?

One of the reasons that Islam is so popular in the world’s tribes is that Islam and tribes have identical values. Islam was created by a tribal leader. Tribal virtues are Islamic virtues. So Islam and the tribe have identical values, and give the same psychological payoff to the adherents. Islam is tribalism writ large. Islam layers on the expansionist evangelical element to tribalism it never had before. Now the warrior code mixes with the hostility to everyone outside the tribe, and now the outsiders are infidels to conquer, subjugate or kill. This is not to say that all Islamists wish to kill infidels, any more than all Christians wish to kill unbelievers. But both are evangelical and both have fringe elements that are hostile to outsiders.

Curiously, Westerners love tribalism in some ways, and fight against it in others.

Westerners teach their armies tribal virtues. The West teaches their police tribal virtues. Football coaches teach their players tribal virtues. But then when it comes to interaction with the tribes of the world, the West seems to forget tribal customs and characteristics entirely. Washington DC doesn’t seem to even notice tribalism’s hostility to democracy as it attempts to force democracy upon the tribes of the Middle East. Consequently, America became embroiled in a war with Middle Eastern tribes from which it cannot extricate itself without admitting defeat…an admission that the haughty DC cannot abide. The USA cannot ever subjugate the Arab and Persian tribes, no matter how much money they waste, nor how many years they keep troops on the ground. So, if you have friends or family in the US military, tribalism affects you because the US military can NEVER defeat the tribes. Your family and friends are simply the raw flesh fed into a meat grinder. And your income, stolen from you at the point of a gun, is burned up in an effort that can never succeed.

Things are the way they are with tribes and we are not going to change them. There will likely NEVER be a successful, long term representative democracy in Islamic countries because democracy is about the individual, and Islam is about the tribe.

So, when some state of the Union secedes, and begins to interact with the other nations of the world for trade, it should understand what tribes understand:

• Power: tribes understand superior power. If you have it, you gain advantage. But they also understand…
• Time.
• Other Tribes: they know tribalism, so they know how tribes function.
• A Deal: Look around the world at tribes. They are all shrewd negotiators. They love a good deal. Deals have mutual benefits.

Any new nation, born of secession, should work with tribalism and not against it. That sensitivity to a culture not its own will stand the new nation in great stead with tribes, and will build a reputation as a trustworthy nation. Such a reputation sets it apart from the dastardly American government in DC.

Secession is the Hope For Mankind. Who will be first?

DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

12 Responses to Tribes vs. Individuals

  1. Russell:

    Great discussion.
    Tribalism was the subject of the very first
    public speech i ever made…way back in 1970,
    running for VT’s one seat in the US House or Representatives….

    We should chat, repair distance, and pitch in
    together for the secession effort.

    Dennis Morrisseau W. Pawlet, VT 802 645 9727

  2. Russell, are you reading my mind again? On my word as a South’n lady who thinks she would make a terrific tribal chieftain, night before last I looked up and said calmly, “I’m not a soldier, I’m a warrior.”

    (The first one to snicker can face my naked wireless keyboard, which is made of plastic but more dangerous than steel except at close quarters, and even then I can think of at least one effective bellicose use of it.)

    I doubt that within another generation there will be any real concept of what it means “to be an American.” The deliberate Balkanization of the country through immigration quotas and refusing to control borders has led to large enclaves of those who feel like the tribes in Afghanistan: they don’t want any part of what we’re selling and they like their own cultures just fine, thank us. The melting pot has become a mishmash of “citizens” who want Sharia law, while others want everything to be conducted in Spanish, and 45% of all residents–I can scarcely call them “Americans”–now get subsidies from the government. We have gone from a small, expanding, agrarian Republic to an overcrowded socialistic state bordering on totalitarianism.

    Far too many advantages and momentum have shifted to the tribes, and I doubt that US troops will ever “win” another war anywhere overseas.

  3. Dear J&DT (sic)

    I’ve always wanted to be a vampire, although I don’t think I’ll watch the move from your site above, thank you. I read Becky’s tongue-in-cheek piece on immigration. I’m not militant and I’m probably not a Libertarian. As nearly as I can tell they haven’t figured out who they are.

    All I want is the government out of my life because it doesn’t do anything I can’t do better, faster, more efficiently, more economically, or without. Anyone who likes feel free to challenge that statement, but I only offer sucker bets.

  4. […] Islam is the perfect religion for a part of the world populated by tribes. I wrote about tribes HERE. […]

  5. […] (Editor’s Note: This is the perfect follow-up to yesterday’s posting about psychopaths. And packs are just lower forms of tribalism, which we explored HERE.) […]

  6. […] Islam is the perfect religion for a part of the world populated by tribes. I wrote about tribes HERE. […]

  7. […] and sound money as the organizing and sustaining principles of the tribe. (I wrote about tribes HERE.) For the purpose of this article, the word “tribe” is defined as “a social group comprised of […]

  8. […] and sound money as the organizing and sustaining principles of the tribe. (I wrote about tribes HERE.) For the purpose of this article, the word “tribe” is defined as “a social group comprised of […]

  9. […] and sound money as the organizing and sustaining principles of the tribe. (I wrote about tribes HERE.) For the purpose of this article, the word “tribe” is defined as “a social group comprised of […]

  10. […] the overthrow of Libya and lit up Gaddafi military troops as support for the overthrow. But Libya is all about tribes, and tribalism and democracy never mix. Libya wants the kind of sharia state that Saudi Arabia has, […]

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